Great weather out there...if you are a duck, that is. It started raining late last night and hasn't stopped all day. In fact the weather has been changeable for the lat couple of weeks now. So much so for being in a drought. Still, it hasn't stopped me or my clients getting out on the rock. Over the weekend of 21/22 April, I was up country to climb with Simon from Bath (He must be a glutton for punishment as its the 4th time he's been climbing with me). Simon's nemesis is a climb called 'The Laughing Cavaliers, at a crag called Shorn Cliff, in the Wye Valley. A couple of years ago it shrugged Simon off without a thought and left him feeling less than confident when climbing. Having been climbing with me, his confidence was returning, so it was time to let him lead a route or two, before getting back on Laughing Cavaliers.
We spent most of saturday at Portishead Quarry. This little Limestone crag can be seen from the M5 and is usually passed by the majority of climbers, but it is a little gem and well worth stopping off for an hour or two. The quarry is being managed by The British Mountaineering Council in partnership with the Avon Wildlife Trust, and due to their work, this once industrial site is now overflowing with wildlife. At the far end of the quarry is a high slab with many good quality climbs in the mid grades (HS-E2), while Highway One (E4) is the crag classic.
Despite a rainy forecast, we climbed 4 routes on the main slab. Simon even led Pickpocket, which at HVS, is the same grade as The Laughing Cavaliers, so his confidence and expectations were high for the following day. A brief rest and a dry afternoon saw us change location to the steeper and more exposed Suspension Bridge Buttress in Avon Gorge. Climbing here is a far cry from Portishead Quarry. Steep rock, above the River Avon and the busy A34. Not only that, once you start climbing here, you become the centre of attention for everyone on the bridge and those peering over the fence on Clifton Common. The climbing is on really good holds and the protection is plentiful, unlike the rest of the climbing in the gorge, that tends to favour the bold. We climbed a couple of single pitch routes that end on a small ledge on the left of the crag. From here, one has to abseil back down, using a metal 'mushroom', installed for that purpose - the access agreement prohibits climbing on the bridge structure. After the confines of the quarry, the exposure on the buttress put the spooks on Simon and knock his confidence a bit, so it was up to me to lead the last route of the day..the classic Suspense (HVS), which is a complete jugfest! Abseiling off for the second time, Simon said he felt more comfortable and tomorrow would be his date with his nemesis.
Another day, another crag...off to Tintern Abbey and Shorn Cliff. It wasn't the best of days, conditions-wise. Hidden in the trees, the crag can harbour moisture, despite the weather being dry...and sunday wasn't dry! Still, we were optimistic.. Closer inspection revealed damp, soapy rock - not the best, and certainly not the conditions for Simon to slay his demon. Then it began to rain...oh dear! still, at least there was a cave for us to shelter in.
By the time it really decided it was going to rain properly we had managed to climb 4 routes between us, but not The Laughing Cavaliers. Although disappointed, Simon could see that conditions weren't right for him today, so he's keen to get back there soon. What I was surprised to see was how much of the crag was succumbing to the advance of vegetation. Although the 3 star classics are clean, many other routes are getting overgrown. This is due to lack of traffic that i'm sure is the result of sport climbing and bouldering becoming more popular these days.